Read Mine Are Spectacular! Online

Authors: Janice Kaplan

Tags: #Fiction

Mine Are Spectacular! (3 page)

“Did I do something wrong?” I ask, jumping up nervously. I can't think what it would be. Maybe it's against the law in this zip code to cater your own party.

“Not yet,” he says slyly. “Now where's the birthday girl?”

“This is a baby shower,” I say, confused.

“Okay, the
birth-
ing girl,” he says jocularly. And then he tosses his hat in the air and bends over to grab something from his belt. Oh my god, his gun? Reflexively, I fling my hands into the air.

“Don't shoot,” I plead. “I'm innocent.”

“But I'm not,” he says. And as if on cue, the house fills with P. Diddy wailing from a mini-CD player, “Girl I'm a Bad Boy.”

Our trusty patrolman starts unbuttoning his shirt and twirls his club in time to the music. I watch agog as the top comes off and he sends it flying into the crowd, revealing his bare, bronzed chest. Pretty buff, too—though why the heck are we looking at it?

Olivia has the answer.

“Happy shower!” she shouts to Berni, above the music. “My baby present to you—Patrolman Pete! The Cop Who Rocks!”

“Thank you, ma'am,” says Pete, who in one swift motion rips the Velcro seam on his pants and steps casually out of them. He sidles up to nine-month-pregnant Bernie and swivels his hips—and his red bikini underwear—as close to her as he can get. He winks broadly, plays provocatively with his nightstick and makes his intentions clear. “This officer is not a gentleman!” he says, removing the leather belt that's still at his waist and snapping it suggestively.

I look around at my thirty guests. It's a defining moment. One group, led by Olivia, is grinning, swaying to the music and waiting eagerly to see what happens next. Preferably to them. Next are the women who have a sudden need to clear away wineglasses, retrieve wayward wrapping or pick the lint off their skirts—anything but look at Pete. And then there's Berni's mother, who was only bargaining on a spirited game of pin the rattle on the donkey. But a spirited game of being pinned by Pete apparently has a certain allure, because she makes her way over to the edge of Berni's chair, claiming her maternal right as heir to the throne.

Pete, catching her drift, bends over suggestively and places his hat jauntily on her head.

“You go, grandma!” Olivia cheers from the sidelines.

“Nobody feels like a grandma when I'm around!” Pete promises, letting out a whoop. He wiggles to the edge of Berni's chair and grabs mother Erica onto his dance floor. He grinds his pelvis in time to the Maroon 5 CD now blaring, bumping hips with Berni's mom on every rotation.

“Whooo!” she yelps, raising her own arms above her head. Then she drops them around Patrolman Pete's neck and wriggles closer to his well-tanned body.

“I'm
lovin'
this woman,” Pete hoots, pressing against her tightly.

Apparently, Berni thinks he may be doin' too much lovin', because she gets out of her chair. Up until now, Berni's been a good sport, but this is her mother we're talking about. The woman she'd like to think of as a virgin. And who no doubt feels the same about Berni, despite all evidence to the contrary. Daughters don't want their mothers having sex and mothers don't want their daughters having sex. And still we have a population explosion.

“Nice dancing, mom,” Berni says. And then in an effort to break up the happy couple, she uses her stomach as a wedge and plants herself between them. Patrolman Pete, though, misinterprets her move and thinks he's scored a threesome. So what if the mother's sixty-four and a little scrawny and the daughter's nine months gone. By the time he recounts the afternoon's activities to his buddies, those little details will drop by the wayside.

“Lovin' this, loving both of you!” he says grinding lustfully now in all directions. Erica shimmies her hips, but Berni stands there like a stick. Or in her case, an oak tree.

“Loving time is just about over,” Berni says firmly. She takes the patrolman's cap off her mom's head and hands it back it to Pete. “Time to call it a wrap. Thanks for the memories.” And with that, she loops her arm through Pete's elbow and escorts him toward the door. Make that drags him to the door, since he's in no rush to leave.

“I paid for a full hour,” says Olivia petulantly. “Pete doesn't have to go.”

“Yes he does,” says Berni. “You gotta know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.”

Olivia, who definitely comes down on the side of wanting to hold him, instead hands Pete her card. “I'm a talent agent. If you need anything, call me. Anything at all.” And I swear she bats her eyes.

For once, Berni doesn't parry that she's a talent agent, too.

With Pete gone, Berni's mother and several other women head over to the bartender. Whether Pete's gotten them interested in the only other man left in the room or they need to dull their senses is anybody's guess. Olivia grabs a cosmopolitan and saunters over to Berni with a smug grin plastered on her face.

“This is soo good,” she says taking a long sip of her pink drink and pointing out just one more deprivation Berni must suffer in the name of motherhood. “It's a shame you can't drink. But didn't you just love Pete? I figured a stripper was just what you needed since you probably can't have any sex these days.”

“At least I did once,” Berni says, coming to her own defense.

“And she'll have plenty more,” says Hadley Farms' own Priscilla, joining the conversation.

“Not living here,” Olivia says scornfully. “From what I hear, everyone was upset when
Sex and the City
ended because sex in the suburbs ended a long time ago.”

“Not in this suburb,” Priscilla says with a wink. And then whispering to me, “Now that you live here you'll find out what I mean.”

Maybe I should have studied the Hadley Farms Handbook more thoroughly.

A stream of women begin coming over to say their good-byes and linger to look one more time at the pile of gifts.

“My goodness, I just realized nobody gave you
The Mozart Effect
tapes,” one woman says in a concerned voice. “I'll send some over as soon as I get home. You've got to start playing them the
moment
the babies are born if you really want to raise their IQ.”

“I'm not quite sure I want babies who are smarter than I am,” Berni says. “I was just planning on propping them up in front of the washing machine and seeing what happens.”

The woman doesn't know whether to laugh or call the authorities. But Berni breaks out into a big grin. “Of course I have the Mozart baby tapes. I've been playing them to my tummy since the second trimester,” she says. “I swear one of the babies is already kicking in time to the harpsichord.”

After the bartender has packed up and all the guests have finally gone, I plop down into a chair. I feel a little guilty thinking about the sticky plates and mounds of pots piled up in the kitchen, but I'm too pooped to look at them.

“Did you have fun at the party?” I ask Berni, putting my feet up on the ottoman next to hers.

“So much fun. I can't thank you enough. But that Olivia is some piece of work, huh? See why I'm glad to be getting out of the business? I'll never know if she thought I'd like the stripper—or if she did it to torture me.”

I laugh. “I thought he was kind of cute,” I say. “But were you really upset?”

“Not by that,” she says with a sigh. “The party was perfect. I couldn't be happier.” But she sighs again, this time even deeper. “It was a nice group of women, wasn't it? I guess I was just disappointed that Cameron Diaz was a no-show. I know she's in town and she said she'd stop by. In fact, none of
Charlie's Angels
came. Olivia's right. I guess I'm out of the game. Leave L.A. for five minutes and you're off everybody's speed dial.”

“You're still on mine,” announces a bright voice from the hallway.

We both turn around to see Kate striding into the room in a sexy but still professional Michael Kors tulip skirt. She kisses me on the cheek and then deposits the huge cellophane-wrapped wicker basket she's carrying next to Berni. Ever since I introduced them, they've become fast friends.

“Darling, I'm so sorry I'm late. I have the best reason. But I'll save it,” Kate says, her porcelain skin looking slightly flushed.

“Tell me,” Berni says, cheering up. “Except if it involves good sex. I don't think I can bear to hear about that right now.”

“Then I'll definitely save it,” Kate says with a devilish laugh. “Now open your presents. You'll need every one of them.”

Berni fumbles with the oversized pink-and-blue ribbons tied at the top. After the third try, she pushes the basket across the sofa. “Damn, you do it,” she says to Kate. “Even my fingers are bloated.”

Kate's long, perfectly manicured hands make short work of the ribbons, revealing a tower of fancily packaged boxes, bottles, unguents and ointments.

“What are they?” Berni asks, picking up a shiny silver tube and looking at it quizzically.

“That one's the beeswax belly salve,” says Kate. “Really good for stretch marks.”

“Wow,” says Berni. “Terrific. You can't imagine how much I need that. Or maybe you can.” She laughs and picks up another bottle. “And this?”

“Eighty percent pure shea butter. For stretch marks. Lavender belly oil, ditto. And my very own concoction of aloe with vitamin E and extract of tamarind root. Doesn't smell very good, but it's really great . . .”

“. . . for stretch marks,” Berni finishes.

“Right,” says Kate happily.

I look at Kate dubiously. “So which one of them really works?”

“For stretch marks? Nothing,” she admits. “But rubbing lotions on your tummy three times a day is better than sitting around worrying about the delivery. Oh, and Berni, I also gave you some fabulous lotion for the babies. Keeps their skin soft.”

I thought that was the point about babies—they have naturally soft skin. But maybe without proper intervention, it's all downhill after the first three months. No wonder I'm in trouble. I didn't start using moisturizer until I was twenty-six.

I pick up a pack of teeny bottles with graceful stoppers in the lids. “What are these?” I ask.

“Aromatherapy,” Kate says. “Keeps the babies stress-free. Want to try?”

“Stress-free sounds good,” I say, dabbing a drop of oil on my wrist. “Could use some of that around here. Next time, bring some extras for Bradford.”

Berni looks up sharply at me. “Don't tell me you're having problems with Mr. Wonderful,” she says.

“Definitely not,” says Kate, answering for me. “No trouble in Paradise. Sara's the happiest woman in the world.”

I nod. She's right. Of course I am. Bradford's the love of my life.

Chapter TWO

TWO DAYS LATER,
I'm in the Harrison Hotel, which Kate has assured me is the chicest new spot in New York. I can see how the squiggly fuchsia sofas made out of poured cement and the wobbly free-form three-legged tables pass for hip, but I wonder why the dermatologists didn't pick a place with better lighting for their annual “FIGHT AGE!” conference. The yellow fixtures make everyone here look like fugitives from the ICU. And when did “age” become a call to arms anyway? I've tried to Save the Whales, Save the Earth, and Save
Family Guy
from being cancelled. But this is the first time I've rallied to save my face from the demon wrinkle.

Kate's drawn a standing-room-only crowd for her keynote speech, and since I'm sitting uncomfortably in a backless acrylic chair, I think of offering my seat to someone older than I am. If only there were someone. The place is packed with twenty- and thirty-somethings who've barely graduated from Clearasil. Instead of fighting age, shouldn't they be fighting to get into graduate school?

Kate strides to the podium to begin her talk. She's professional and charming, and the audience hangs on her every word. One woman scribbles notes on the palm of her hand—how good can that be for your skin?—and others have brought tape recorders so they can listen to Kate's speech again and again. Maybe they'll replay it when they're jogging in the park, trying to lower their cholesterol. Though I'd worry that listening to an anti-aging tape is more likely to raise their blood pressure.

For over an hour, Kate makes the case for the latest scientific breakthroughs that will eliminate brown spots and even out your skin tone. You can even give up sex—though who'd want to, Kate jokes—because the newest LED laser gives your cheeks that rosy post-coital flush. And unlike an orgasm, it lasts all day. She touts a cream that costs four hundred dollars an ounce and comes from dehydrated test-tube-cloned lizard pancreas. Or something like that. The exorbitant price and the exotic ingredients convince most of the audience they've found a gift from God.

During the question-and-answer period, a few women ask high-minded questions about clinical trials and FDA approval. But the main thing on most people's minds is—what are your office hours and how long do I have to wait for an appointment? I hope nobody's having a freckle emergency, because I happen to know that Kate's booked for the next four months. She's made believers of us all.

Well almost all. There's always a naysayer in the crowd who needs to be converted.

“I think all this is a bunch of hokum,” says a fair-skinned fortyish year old woman, standing up and identifying herself as Alva. “I don't believe in all this age-defying, age-denying hocus-pocus. You're a doctor so you should know physics. You can't turn back the clock unless you're traveling at the speed of light. And even Einstein couldn't do that.”

“That's because Einstein didn't have lasers,” Kate says, dismissing the Nobel Prize winner's work as unimportant—relatively. “And trust me, lasers turn back the clock. Come on up here and let me show you a little technological whiz-bang. A miraculous resculpting facial that can give you a fabulous face-lift in five minutes.”

Maybe when it comes to beauty, even a skeptic wants to believe, because Alva hesitates for barely a moment before making her way up to the small platform in the front of the room. Kate smiles at her and turns on one of the machines she'd been describing during her lecture. Lights flash and the device emits a buzzing, sizzling sound.

“You're welcome to sit down,” Kate tells her genially.

Alva looks at the blinking contraption—and cautiously lowers herself into the chair next to it. Kate gets busy connecting some long wires with saucer-sized electrodes to Alva's forehead, cheeks and double chin. The crowd is suddenly very still. Is this a facial or a scene from
The Executioner
?

“I promise nothing really shocking's going to happen,” Kate says, turning to the audience and giving a little wink. She smiles at her subject. “Are you ready to go ahead?”

Alva nods solemnly, and Kate flips the switch. When the lights on the machine start flashing furiously, Alva stoically grips her hands on the armrests and leans back in her seat. If electricity were pulsating through my body, I'd at the very least be worrying about the Con Ed bill.

Kate spends five minutes explaining to the audience how the electrical pulses cause muscle contractions that tighten the skin. The gentle flow of current reduces puffiness, increases circulation, and should give Alva an instant lift.

“So what do you think?” Kate asks the audience as she flips Alva's face from side to side, checking out her work in progress. “Is it going to work? Ready to see the unveiling?”

The audience lets out a few hoots of “Yes!” and “Let's see!” I definitely want to see, because I'm still looking at Alva, whose eyes are closed. And whether she's fallen asleep or dead, I can't really tell.

“Okay, then,” Kate says dramatically, her voice deepening. “The big moment.” With a flourish, she turns off the machine, removes the electrodes, and strokes her fingertips across Alva's face, patting here and there as if molding a big lump of clay. Finally Kate nods approvingly and hands her patient a mirror.

At first Alva says nothing as she stares at her reflection. Then she breaks out into a big grin and pats her now-tauter cheeks. “My gosh, I really do look better,” she says.

“Yes, you're beautiful!” Kate exults.

The audience is on its feet applauding. Loud cheers of “Me next!” and “Where can I get that?” fill the room. Everyone wants to be the recipient of Kate's next bolt of beauty. The crowd starts pushing toward the stage, whooping and stomping. If Hewlett-Packard stock had inspired this much enthusiasm, Carly Fiorina would still have a job.

The women gather around and one touches Kate's sleeve as if she were the pope. Another asks for an autograph. When we were kids Kate used to say she wanted to save the world. Who knew she'd be doing it one pimple at a time.

Thirty minutes later, the potential patients are finally out of questions and Kate's out of business cards. She excuses herself and I follow her as we make a graceful exit.

“So what'd you think?” she asks me happily, on a high from her worshipers' adulation.

“I feel like I should kiss your ring,” I say, laughing. “That woman really did look good.”

“And that's just a sample. The whole process with the dermabrasion, collagen and vitamin serum takes at least a couple of hours. It costs a fortune, but for you, my dear, I'd do it for free.”

“I'll add it to the list,” I say with a laugh. “How long do your miracles last?”

“A full twenty-four hours.”

“And after that your Cinderellas turn back into pumpkins?”

“At least they look good for the ball. Or the Oscars.”

“As long as the show doesn't run late,” I say.

Kate laughs and links her arm through mine.

“Come on, I promised you lunch. I owe you a Harrison Hamburger for coming to my speech. Specialty of the house. The chef makes them with foie gras and caviar.”

“Caviar?” I ask. “Hasn't anybody here ever heard of Hamburger Helper?”

“Yes, they have,” Kate says, holding the door open for me. “And that's why they use caviar. Let me introduce you to my favorite lunch.”

But it's not the hamburger I get to meet. As we head toward the forty-dollar sandwiches in the wildly overpriced hotel restaurant—modestly billed as The Cafeteria—Kate suddenly comes to a dead halt. She self-consciously tugs at the hem of her tight Gucci shirt. If she pulls it any harder, I'll get to see that three-hundred-fifty-dollar La Perla bra she swears by. I follow her gaze and see a man rushing across the lobby in our direction, waving at Kate with one hand and scrolling through his Blackberry with the other. He's wearing an expensive wheat-colored linen shirt that amazingly hasn't wilted in the humidity. His crisp olive pants are equally wrinkle-free, and there are no creases on his face, either. Maybe he's been resculpted. I suddenly have a brainstorm. Can Doctor Kate make over any guy so he's the man of her dreams? If so, she might have made the biceps on this one a little bigger.

“I'm here,” he says, tucking away his Blackberry and planting a light kiss on Kate's cheek. “Sorry I missed your speech, babe. I was buying a building on Thirty-third Street and it took longer than I thought.”

Buying a building? No wonder he's late. Given the price of Manhattan real estate, it would probably take forever just to write all the zeros on the check.

“Let me introduce you. This is Owen Hardy,” says Kate, never taking her adoring eyes off of him. “My dear new friend, the fabulous and famous Owen Hardy.”

The very tan man in question looks at me expectantly, tapping his foot and waiting for a reaction. He's clearly miffed when he doesn't get one.

“Owen Hardy,”
he repeats, saying it slower and more loudly. He could announce his name in American Sign Language and Koko the gorilla might get it, but I still won't be able to place him.

Kate tries to come to my rescue. “Owen Hardy. You must see his name all over the city,” she prompts. “On buildings. H-A-R-D-Y. Hardy.”

So then it hits me. Those great big twenty-foot-high bronze letters on top of half the skyscrapers in New York. Owen Hardy is one of New York's most prominent real estate moguls. Ads for his buildings say
He Trumps Trump!
Owen definitely trumps Donald in the hair department. But I wonder if he can say “You're fired” with as much élan.

“Nice to meet you,” I say, shaking his hand.

But my audience with the fabulous and famous Owen Hardy is apparently over, because he glances at his watch and raps his finger on the dial. Is he hyperactive, or is that how he winds his fifty-thousand-dollar Patek Philippe? He grabs Kate's elbow, clearly ready to lead her away. “Sorry to rush, but we better get going. I only have an hour for . . . lunch.”

“We were just heading into The Cafeteria,” I say innocently. “Why don't you come along.”

“Not the kind of lunch I had in mind,” he says looking meaningfully at Kate. “I already stopped at the front desk and got us a suite.”

Oh, that kind of lunch. And why not? A rich, powerful, well-dressed man about town with his name on dozens of New York buildings. He seems like a pretty good match for my Kate—who might as well enjoy her afternoon tryst without worrying about me.

“Listen, you guys, I just remembered I have to . . . go.” Great excuse and very clever. Maybe I can get a job as Dick Cheney's speechwriter. I look at my watch for emphasis and try rapping it. But that's apparently not how you wind a Swatch.

Kate and I say hasty good-byes and she promises to call me later. She and her real estate mogul head to the elevators, and I go in the opposite direction, through the revolving doors and out of the hotel. If I'm buying my own hamburger, it's not going to involve foie gras. But this must be an upscale neighborhood because I have to walk a whole two blocks before hitting a McDonald's. At the counter, I turn virtuous and order a chicken Caesar salad. While I'm eating, I study the nutrition information and let out a gasp. A zillion calories in the Paul Newman dressing. This is as big a con as he pulled off in
The Sting.

I'm taking another stab at my salad when I feel my cell phone vibrating in my pocket. I see the words i love you flashing on the screen, the message Bradford programmed into my phone months ago along with his number.

“So you'll know how I feel every time I call,” he'd said, handing it back to me and kissing me gently on the lips.

And kissing him is still the best part of my day. Even when he comes home from work at midnight, exhausted, he still cuddles next to me before falling asleep. And he swears that once the deal he's working on now is done, he'll be more relaxed. Or—as he says—as relaxed as a man who was born in a three-piece suit can possibly be.

“Hi, honey,” he says now when I answer the phone. “Where are you?”

“Having lunch,” I say, wiping the last incriminating trace of salad dressing from my mouth. As if my cell phone might suddenly turn into one of those camera models.

“Someplace good?” he asks.

Here's a dilemma. Bradford usually eats broiled fish and steamed vegetables for lunch, whipped up by his company's executive chef and delivered to his desk on Limoges china and a silver tray. Should I tell him I've been eating plastic fast food with a plastic fork? Not exactly his style. But I can't lie.

“I just became McDonald's hundred-billionth customer,” I say. “I'm hoping I won a free apple turnover.”

“Go buy yourself one. My treat,” he says with a laugh. “Is Kate with you for your fancy lunch?”

“Nope. Turns out she had other plans.”

“So do you, if you can manage it,” he says cheerfully. “Can you meet me in an hour? I'm taking your advice and working hard to be more relaxed.”

I laugh. “What do you have in mind?”

“A little surprise.”

He tells me where to meet him and ten minutes later I'm in a cab, zipping down the FDR Drive. I look appreciatively at the cityscape, glowing in the sunshine, and suddenly hardy seems to be looming everywhere. When did that happen? Once something hits your radar screen, it seems to pop up all over. I'm pretty sure the family didn't acquire fifty new buildings since lunchtime. Especially since Owen's tied up at the moment.

Owen. So Kate's got a new guy. Good. She's the most gorgeous woman I know but it's been a long stretch between boyfriends. If this works out maybe we can have a double wedding—since I don't seem to be doing anything about planning one on my own. But I don't care what Kate says, no way that fancy pastry chef Sylvia Weinstock is making us one of her famous eight-layered confections. Unless she jumps out of the wedding cake, I'm not spending the twelve hundred dollars.

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